Limited but Able

Reality Check –

In my last Divine Incarnate post, I wrote this:

“I wasn’t there when they crucified my Lord, but I am here, now, when the dying are crying out in pain and loneliness, and the abused are losing hope that anyone will carry them to safety. Is my heart suffering with theirs in true compassion, ready to do whatever I can to help – not to hesitate, but to give generously in love? Whatever I do for the least, I do for Christ.”

Now, ask myself – do I do this? Because of my severe disability, I am physically too weak and limited to go out to the sick and dying and sit beside their beds. I am too easily exhausted to seek out the abused and find shelter and healing for them. However… I can pray for them daily and seriously. But, do I? And… I can speak gentle words of comfort when my loved one, with whom I live day in and day out, is angry, irritable, afraid, or upset. But, do I? And I can better trust the people who take care of me and not be so picky, not seek to control. But, do I?

We all have our own individual lives to live – but none of us are divided from others. We are connected to people every day in a myriad ways. In those everyday connections, I ask myself, am I embracing Christ? In those normal encounters with other people, am I wiping his bloody face and carrying his terrible burden with him? Or, instead, in those ordinary moments when I get annoyed with a person’s heavy mood, am I quick and harsh with my words and reactions? Are there times in the day when I want what I want, out of self-centered pleasure, even if it places a very difficult burden on another?

Our deepest connection to one another is our bond as human beings – as children of God. Whatever I do to my brother or my sister – not only out there in the slums, jails, and hospitals, but also right here in the living room, kitchen, and hallway – I do to Christ. Whatever I do to my brother or my sister, or my mother or my father, or my husband or my wife, or my child or my grandchild, or my coworker or my next-door neighbor, or the store clerk or the driver ahead of me on the road, I do to God-Incarnate.

So, do I love Christ? Then, how do I show that love, live that love?

It’s like when Christ Jesus asked Peter over and over again if he loved him. Every time that Peter said that he did, Christ told him to feed his sheep.

How can I feed Christ’s sheep? I am not a pastor or a doctor or a social worker – I can’t even use my arms or breathe without rocking back and forth. But… I can love. And therein lies the ultimate power of any and every human being. I can love, truly love.

But, do I?

© 2014 Christina Chase

 

In the Midst of Wolves

Do you pray not to be put to the test? I do.

I think about the worst situation that I could find myself in and then I wonder… would I still love God in that situation? Would I still be a joyful, committed person of faith…? With that thought in mind, and in order to share a little of my personal life as someone with a physical disability, I am pressing this post from my other blog, BibleBursts.com.

In the Midst of Wolves.

The Charity Case Tries Charity

Integrity, I have heard it said, is the quality of a person whose actions correspond to his or her beliefs.  So, I, who believe in Christian love and charity, ask myself as night comes on: “Was Christ integral to what I said and did today?”  How do I know I’m not just preaching for other people to see, just another Pharisee, a hypocrite…?

I’m going to look over the last couple of days to see what I have done, starting from the day I wrote my most recent Bible Burst (For As the Body) which motivated me to think on my works.  Presenting in list fashion will be most efficient.  But, I warn you, the list of works is pathetic.  If my sister is sick, I can’t go to her house and make her supper.  If a child falls to the ground in front of me, I can’t pick him up and carry him to his mother.  If I see anyone in physical need or peril, I can’t lift a finger to help.  Literally.  The muscles of my legs, torso, arms – and, yes, most of my fingers – are too weak for me to even move them.  I’m the one who needs supper to be made for her – and fed to her.  I’m the one who needs to be carried.  But, that is absolutely, positively, utterly and completely no excuse for me not to be charitable.  This little list could be so much longer if I had integrity… but, here it is:

I woke up Wednesday morning and would have liked to have gotten out of bed, but waited 20 minutes before waking my parents for assistance – they needed the sleep.

I stayed on the bedpan an extra five minutes without saying that I was ready so as not to interrupt my parents who had become involved in doing something else.

On Thursday, I wrote a short email to a disabled woman, whom I’ve befriended online and who is mostly homebound, sending her a couple of pictures.  (That felt like an act of charity.)  And, through Facebook, I sent one sentence to my former home health aide who moved away in order to let her know that I’m thinking about her and to tell her that she’s awesome, because I know she needs to hear it.  (That felt like an act of friendship.)

Also on Thursday, I gave one of my current home health aides a Snickers bar for her birthday, along with a pretty birthday card that quoted Jeremiah: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  She is not a religious young woman (kind of a fallen away Catholic) and her very secular life is full of difficulties and hardships.  I did not intend the card for evangelization but, rather, as actual comfort, inspiration and hope.  All I said when I gave it to her was, “Well, with all you’ve been through this year and with your plans for this coming one….”  That was it.  And I was even uncomfortable with that.

Lastly, I’ve been trying, for several days, to figure out how to forgive someone that I have called my friend and who has always boldly called herself my friend – but who has lately been unreliable, disappointing, and just….  Argh.  I don’t know.  Her life is a mess, it’s no wonder she screwed up and let me down.  But, it still hurt… and I still have to forgive her, not just say that I do.

This is a sad little list.  It’s not even pathetic in a good way, just paltry.  It seems like most of the so-called acts of charity that I can think of are merely attempts at being less of a charity case myself.  I’m always the needy one.  I don’t think that delaying my needs for a few minutes really counts toward “works”.  I also prayed for others, praying the rosary (something that I try to do every day, so it often feels like a chore) but I can’t say that my heart was in it.  The Divine Mercy chaplet that I prayed for the people of embattled Africa was a little more heartfelt.  And I can’t even think of anything I’ve done today, except offer my day to God – whatever that means, for I’m often very unsure.  Heavy sigh.  But… as I think about it more… I did what I did as a Christian – I only did most of the things on this list because my faith prompted me, like an inner stirring of the Holy Spirit.  Before I was a Christian, I was much more selfish than I am now.

I know there is nothing that I need to do to prove my love to God, for God knows what’s really in my heart – but, perhaps that’s why I’m so concerned…?  I say that there is nothing that I must, or really can, do to prove my love, and, yet, Jesus asked Peter, after the Resurrection, whether or not he loved him.  Peter had to declare three times (corresponding with the three times that he denied even knowing Jesus) that he did love Jesus, saying, “Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you.”  And after each declaration of love, Jesus told Peter to do something.  Kind of like, “You love me?  Then do this.”  So, our love for Christ requires action.  We have to do something about it – it’s that kind of love.  It’s not the warm and fuzzy, content-to-sit-on-your-couch-and-bask-in-the-glow kind of love.  I think this particular passage of Scripture is stating that to love Christ is to serve Christ.  The two are inseparable.  For God’s love is action.  And we are meant to love one another as God loves us – with action.

I think it’s important to remember, though, that doing good works, performing acts of charity, is not anything that we do for God.  These are not gifts that we give to God.  These are simply necessary actions inherent in being loving people.  That’s who we are created to be.  When I fall short of who I truly am by not being an actively loving person, I am not in error because I broke a rule and made God angry with me.  I’m in error because I’m not really me.  Maybe it’s more like God is sadly disappointed with me when I don’t live up to my full potential, when I don’t love as I was created to love – kind of like the way I feel about my friend.  The difference is that, I think, for God, forgiveness is not an act of forgiveness, like it will be for me, mere human that I am.  Forgiveness, for God, is being.  – – Oh, I am so not God…

… as it should be.

Christina Chase

Lord, Live Your Life through Me

When I consecrated myself to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I knew that there was part of the Consecration that would be difficult, if not impossible, for me to do because of my severe physical limitations.  (It’s hard to get around, I stay home a lot.)  Mass attendance on the first Friday of each month is recommended, with five in a row prescribed.  Hopefully, I will be able to do this… but I’m not counting on it.  Meanwhile, I will participate in the Eucharistic Liturgy in the best way that I can: by watching a televised Mass and praying to receive Spiritual Communion.  To help facilitate spiritual participation and communion, I will be choosing and presenting a prayer, meditation, or scriptural passage that’s conducive to true worship.

This month’s facilitator is St. Ignatius of Loyola, who eloquently speaks to the crux of what I was poorly attempting to write about in my last post:

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; dispose of it entirely according to your will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is sufficient for me.

This is exactly what God calls me to do, exactly what I have such a hard time doing.  This is the life of Jesus Christ, his human nature crying out to God the Father: “not as I will, but as thou wilt.”  (Matthew 26:39.)  This is the self-giving love of Christ on the Cross, surrendering to Divine Will, pouring out his life’s blood for me.  And this is what is celebrated in the Eucharist of every Mass: the surrender of the self to the will of God in humility and love.

So what does that mean to me and for me?

There is nothing that I can give to God that God has not already given to me.  God doesn’t need monetary tribute or burnt incense or a sacrificed portion of grain or meat.  Even the little things that I “give up” during the season of Lent are not for God – the sacrifices are for me, to help me recognize that material things and self-centered pleasures do not constitute my identity or the fullness of life.  By letting go of daydreaming (my personal Lenten sacrifice) I can turn my mind more fully to God and be more deeply aware of the true gifts and talents that God has given me.  When I use these gifts for God – including my personal liberty, memory, and understanding – then I am fulfilled as a human being.  I’m closer to becoming the person that I was created to be – I am closer to knowing the profound depth of God’s love and to experiencing infinite joy.

From today’s Psalm (51):

should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.

To truly participate in the Eucharistic Liturgy, then, symbolized by the bread and wine brought to the altar, I give my whole self to God.  I consecrate and offer my person and my life to Divine Love Itself, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Like Jesus, I seek and choose God’s will.  This is full participation in the Eucharist – in Christ’s Paschal Mystery.  Transformed through redemption, I received the gift of Christ’s love, thus entering into full spiritual communion.  And then I am able to do the things that God wants me to do each day: setting aside my selfish pursuits and indulgences, my self-righteous indignations, and going forth, in the ways in which I am uniquely able, “releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; Sharing [my] bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when [I] see them, and not turning [my] back on [my] own.”  (Isaiah 58)

So, why don’t I DO it?    Why do I have such difficulty just being gentle sometimes?

Lord, I want to be like you.  I want to give you my whole self.  Come, live your life through me.

Christina Chase

A Love Shaped Key

A love shaped key opens every sacred door, portal, passage and visage – it is the secret of the universe, the divine way, the truth.  A key shaped by love, of love, with love, in love, to love – for love.  And not the love that is mere feeling or sentiment or self pleasing regard – but love that is willing sacrifice, commitment, surrender, courage, faithfulness.  Love that is, itself, divine.  This is the secret of life, this is the holy way – this is truth that sets us free.

When in Doubt

Doubt shouldn’t be feared, because it’s not in  opposition to faith – doubt is actually part of faith.  If we have faith with no moments of confusion or doubt, then we don’t really have faith  – we have concrete certainty or, perhaps better explained, a lump of  concrete.  If God had wanted to, He could have made His teachings blatantly  obvious, could send down unmistakable, in-your-face saviors every  generation, a voice booming over the whole globe, a neon sign in the  heavens – but God wants us to have faith.  God wants us to trust, not  with absolute logical certainty, but with love.  Not just to believe  that God exists, but to believe in God.  There is something  exquisitely beautiful, powerful and vital in a leap of faith – and  doubts give us the chance to take the leap over and over again.

A Nest of Dryness

I began this blog to document my spiritual journey, consecrated to the Sacred Heart.  Starting with zeal, I find myself already sputtering out and going flat.  I had promised to set myself apart for holy use, to give my life to divine purpose.  And now… ho-hum, befuddled.  I’m just not feeling it.  So go all devotions, commitments to creativity and vows of love.  Losing the sweetness of the spark, dim dullness creeping in, I am tempted to just wander away aimlessly and grope about for some cheaper thrill.  Temptation lives in desert spots.  But I will not be moved.  I will not lose heart.  For I know that this path is the way of great saints, artists, lovers… the path of holiness.

Being human, I am bound to be an earthly creature dependent upon this spinning sphere orbiting its sun.  The pattern of my life is the ebb and flow of tides, the growth cycle of deciduous trees, the hibernation of bears.  The way is not to mourn the ebbs, the winters, or the dormition, but, rather, to feast in the seasons of plenty, gathering up the knowledge and memory of abundance in my heart so as to keep the ember of hope from going out, even when the fire is gone.  And so, I am now dutifully preparing a nest of dryness for the kindling of my delight.

Maranatha.

Dormant; not forsaken.

Anticipating; not forgetting, not forlorn.

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My mother lights the candles in the growing circle of the Advent wreath and I await rebirth.  Maranatha.  In the midst of dark December, in the midst of dung and hay, come Lord Jesus, come.